Taking the “Planning” Out of “Meal Planning”

Author: Heather Borders

September 12, 2017

Today’s guest author, Heather Borders, is exploring different ways to get creative with your foods without having to put stress into thinking about recipes.

We all know the “decision to eat healthy” drill. We tell ourselves, “If I took the time to plan out my meals each week, I know I would eat healthier.”

Maybe you’ve even gone as far as determining several recipes for the week, making a grocery list, and preparing new meals throughout the week only to collapse from exhaustion?

We all agree that finding practical and realistic ways to consistently add healthy foods into our day-to-day life is incredibly tough. As a registered dietitian, I have the privilege of working with clients to develop a lifestyle plan that fits their individual schedule, adjusts for family structure, and will move them closer to their health goals.

While details of lifestyle plans vary from one client to the next, there are a couple tips that seem to apply and work well for most any family.

Step away from the recipes.

Don’t get me wrong, recipes are great and can provide ideas for unique dishes or guidelines for how to season certain foods. But for anyone who has ever tried to “live by recipes” day in and day out, it’s exhausting, gets old fast, and is ultimately not sustainable.

Alternative: Cook within healthy food categories.

When people ask me, “What foods am I eating that are causing health issues?”, I suggest flipping that question to ask, “What foods aren’t you eating and how might that  be causing health issues?” For most Americans, our daily diet is substantially deficient in fiber. Fiber is only found in plant foods; that is, fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and beans. They are also loaded with protein, vitamins, and minerals, making for one of the most nutritionally well-rounded meals.

cilantro lime garlic brown rice

One way to take the planning out of meal planning to prepare a very simple dish that doesn’t require a recipe, just basic fiber-rich food components.

A “meal in a bowl” can include:

  • rice or quinoa (whole grain)
  • black beans (bean)
  • vegetables (spinach, corn, roasted potato).

Add your favorite seasonings:

  • smoked paprika
  • cumin
  • garlic powder

Spices and herbs in wooden bowls.

Include herbs

  • Cilantro
  • Parsley
  • Basil
  • Rosemary

depositphotos_44573601-stock-photo-fresh-parsley-in-a-jar (1)

Top with your favorite dressing to round out this simple dish with a burst of flavor.

When we know the healthy food categories, then we can prepare a nutritious dish quickly so long as we have certain ingredients on hand. This leads to the next tip!

Cook foods in bulk.

It takes the same amount of time to cook 1 cup of beans or rice as it does to cook 3 cups of beans or rice.  Buying beans in a can (try no- or low-sodium!)  only requires rinsing and can cut down time tremendously.

Vegetarian chickpea salad

Picking a few different vegetables at the beginning of the week, then steaming or roasting on 1-2 baking sheets at the same time can provide you with enough fiber-rich, cancer-fighting, heart healthy foods for the entire week! All of this might take 1-2 hours if done at once or 30 minutes- 60 minutes if split up between two sessions.

Don’t have 1-2 hours to cook or simply hate the idea of cooking? No problem! Buying canned or frozen vegetables, grains, or beans that can easily be used for your delicious power meal!

Take a deep breath and experiment! It takes time and practice to make a running change with anything in our life, and that is especially true of dietary modifications. Start small and set goals for yourself. It won’t happen overnight, but baby steps in the right direction is still progress towards a healthier lifestyle.


Headshot0001 (1)About the author, Heather Borders, MBA, RD, LD/N

Heather Borders is a private practice Registered Dietitian in Jacksonville, Florida who specializes in helping clients develop healthy lifestyle strategies that fit.  In addition to traditional nutrition counseling, she provides individuals and families with practical culinary coaching in the comfort of their own home. Heather is passionate about helping clients gain the confidence and know-how to make sustainable and meaningful lifestyle choices which contribute to making healthy happen.

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